Loch an Eilieen
December came and passed but with it we saw the purchase of some fun equipment for outdoor adventures. We bought inflatable standup paddle boards (thanks to Tasha for giving me my first real taste of this) and an inflatable canoe. Being Scotland, in winter, we also bought a lot of neoprene, from 5mm boots to trousers and vests, life jackets and more. We might want outdoor adventures, but we also want to be warm. We set off to use these at one of the prettiest places in Scotland, nay the world.
Within the Cairngorm National Park, you find one of the UK’s favourite picnic spot, Loch an Eilieen. This is a site owned and ran by the Rochiemurchus Estate. If walking, it is a simple low level winding paths, surrounded by pine trees. You may even spot Red Squirrel, Scottish Crossbill, Crested Tit, Ospreys or even the lesser spotted Scottish Paddler.
Yes, today we hit the water at Loch an Eilieen for the first kayak trip on our isups (inflatable stand up paddle boards). Now, these are rather ingenious, there are D rings attached to the board which let you then attach a seat. The board can be converted, and this set up makes for a comfortable paddling experience. Plus, it is winter, was snowing and the idea of falling into the loch really wasn’t appealing!
Nevertheless, we had to get the boards up and into the water before we could start, and this is where disaster struck! We are new to standup paddle boarding. We arrived, chatted with the carpark attendant and then headed to set up. We took the boards and pump down to the water and started pumping up mine. Unfortunately, we discovered what we thought was a leak. (It turns out you need to tighten the valves on isups and you get the tool, there was even a red tag to tell us, yet we missed all this in our excitement). This meant my board was slowly letting out air!
As we finished pushing the last few pumps of air into my board the pump then decided to break. We tried our best but could only get the other board up to around 3psi (rather than the recommended 15-17psi). We were far from home, had came all this way to try paddling, we were not going to give up. Even 5 minutes in the water would be better than none!
Loch an Eilein means loch of the island. So, unsurprisingly, there is an island in this loch! Upon this island, there is the remains of a castle, or small fort. It is believed this castle was constructed around the 14th century, as a place of safety against the marauding clans and thieves. By the 1700s the stronghold had fallen into disrepair but the 1800s saw attempts to strengthen and support the masonry.
It was towards this island castle we paddled. I remember when I first saw this castle as a little girl. It was used as the backdrop for a scene on Monarch of the Glen. It was a stunning sight then and has not diminished over the years. Indeed, at one point I had hoped to get married on the shore overlooking the castle.
We kept our distance from the island, but it was still wonderful to be close to it. As we relaxed a little in the water, we could spot countless walkers around the loch. I wonder what they may have made of the paddlers. I imagine they thought us a little odd and a lot chilly. Well, thankfully, whilst the kit didn’t work as well as planned for this time, the clothing and neoprene did. I was lovely and cosy throughout, well until it came time to get changed afterwards!
The other beauty of this managed site is that there is even a toilet block handy. This means we could quickly get changed in there before heading back to the hotel for a well-earned hot chocolate!
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